The Mind-Blowingly Cruel Way Scammers Are Targeting Owners of Lost Pets

Realizing your family pet has gone missing is probably one of any dog or cat owner’s greatest fears.

After frantically searching every nook and cranny of your home and checking all your pet’s favorite hiding spots, your next move is probably to take to social media.

You post a picture of your pet’s smiling face. along with your phone number, your pet’s name and a description of any special markings that set your pet apart. Then you mark the post public. You want everyone to be able to see and share it in hopes of reuniting your family.

According to Consumer Affairs, that might be a costly mistake, and it may not get you any closer to finding your pet.

Scammers Could Take Advantage of You and Your Lost Pet

Most people who see your post about your lost pet will feel sympathetic. Those who live in your town might even share your post in hopes of getting your pet back home to you.

While most people mean well, there are people who will use this moment of despair against you.

Scammers who see your post with all your personal information know you’re probably frantic and a little desperate, and they take advantage.

Owners of lost pets have reported getting text messages from people they later realized were scammers. In the text, the scammer claims they found the lost pet, the Better Business Bureau told Consumer Affairs. Then, when the owner asks for the pet’s description or a photo, the excuses start. The scammers claim they don’t have a working smartphone or are out of town and not with the pet, so they can’t take the picture.

“The scammer will then pressure the owner for money to return their lost pet, despite the fact that they did not actually find the pet,” Consumer Affairs reported.

Vulnerable pet owners might just fork over the cash in hopes of getting their furry family member back.

How to Find Your Lost Pet and Protect Yourself

The BBB says it may be better to skip technology and go old-school to find your pet.

Check out veterinarians and animal shelters within a 50-mile radius and leave flyers with photos of your pet at each one. Anyone who finds your pet will likely take it there first.

You can still post online, but don’t mention any special markings your pet has. If someone tracks you down and says they have your furry friend, you’ll know it’s legit if they can tell you about any special markings not visible in the photos.

If you get a call or text from someone claiming they have your pet, ask them to send you a photo. If they won’t, be suspicious.

You can also ask if it’s OK to call them back on the phone number they called you from. Consumer Affairs says scammers often use software to mask their phone numbers. If you can’t reach them on at the number they called you from, that’s a red flag.

Finally, Consumer Affairs says you should never send money to anyone you don’t know. Even if your mention a reward on your flyer, don’t wire any money to a stranger until your pet is back home safe and sound.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.